by Shane Windmeyer, Charlotte, N.C.
Imagine: $700,000 for local LGBT advocacy and support
It is over. Tux rentals are returned. Gowns
are at the dry cleaners. Checks are written.
Cocktails consumed. Credit cards are swiped.
Photos adorn Facebook.A collective sigh —
once again, we imagine another step taken
After five years in Charlotte, it is good to ask
what the return on investment has been having
the Human Rights Campaign Carolinas Dinner
in our backyard. In justifying the $700,000
raised, a conservative estimate, HRC will say
they have an active presence in the Carolinas
through tabling at Pride celebrations, lobbying
for national legislation and! of course, hosting
events that are fundraisers for HRC. The HRC
Dinner has helped our community in the eyes
of local politicians and big corporations who
realize we do exist now. Plus, there are many
wonderful talented local volunteers who work
tirelessly to plan the dinner.
This year’s dinner theme was “IMAGINE:
What do you Imagine?” So, let us for a
moment imagine if that estimated $700,000
had been spent for advocacy and support in
our local community.
Imagine if the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay
Community Center had a budget to pay for
professional staff salaries (director, assistant
director, programs coordinator) comparable
to HRC staff salaries. Or, just imagine if our •
local center had a budget that would pay for
more than utilities and rent. Ask yourself:
Would HRC’s Joe Solmonese work for under
$35,000 a year as CEO? What type of quality of
a director would HRC get? Would HRC be as
effective if they ran solely on volunteer sup
port without any staffing? Of course, not. Why
do we expect our center to do that?
Imagine if MeckPac had $50,000 to back
an openly LGBT candidate to run, for the first
time ever, on the ballot for local city office,
county commissioner, etc. Think of the hearts
and minds in Charlotte that would change by
having a local LGBT leader in our community
live and lead by example.
Imagine if the Charlotte Business Guild
could have the necessary resources to create an
LGBT economic development plan with a team
of professionals — businesses, developers,
planners and investors. The plan could support
the growth and development of LGBT and ally
owned businesses, even possibly an LGBT and
ally neighborhood livipg community.
Imagine if Time Out Youth could have more
resources to help LGBT homeless youth get off
the streets and have safe housing, education
and support with health issues — specifically
our young transgender populations.
Imagine if RAIN could have Increased
monies to focus on the alarming rate of gay
men who are rapidly growing in the number
of new HIV cases or more money for health
services reaching to LGBT persons of color.
Imagine the possibilities. The list is truly
endless on what we can do locally to advocate
and support LGBT equality at home.
If anything, HRC and the dinner have
helped Charlotte realize that we can throw a
great party and raise a lot of money. But was
the $700,000 raised by the HRC Carolinas din
ners a good investment to get us any closer to
achieving LGBT equality?
The decision last year by HRC (or as some
have said, the Human Rights Compromise) to
not stand united for inclusion of transgender
people in employment non-discrimination
legislation makes one wonder. What about the
fact that HRC as a national political organiza
tion still has yet to pass one single piece of
pro-LGBT legislation into law? Let us hope
that with a Democratic President and
Congress this will surely change.
^at I do know is that I can now buy a
spiffy pair of underwear with an equality logo
on it and a Harvey Milk embroidered track •
jacket from the HRC store. I would like to
think the $700,000 has done more — but I
am unsure, frankly.
Some may see my remarks as critical, merely
pointing blame and nothing more. After all, it
makes us feel uncomfortable to think that we
believe in an organization that has not been suc
cessful with our money. But, trust me, I am look
ing in the mirror myself. I was one of the first co
chairs who originally brought the HRC dinner to
Charlotte. I was a HRC Board of Governor for
two years, until I resigned. I had been a volunteer
since 1992 when I was in college. I stood by HRC
and part of me still does believe, maybe naively,
in what HRC can do for LGBT equality nation^-
ly. But, I have also witnessed the bad side of an
organization that has actively worked to stamp
out other regional and national organizations’
efforts and take all the credit so they can raise
Connie J. \fetter
Attorney and Counsellor at Law
i 1208 The riaza
6 MARCH 21 .2009 • QNotes